Anatomy of Petulance

by Victor Davis Hanson

PJ Media

I was fascinated watching the recent Obama campaign stops, particularly the contrast with 2008. Gone are the faux columns and classical backdrops. There are no more vero possumus seals (now they fall off the podium). All pretense of “no more red states, no more blue states” nonpartisanship has long ago been dropped. Even the shrill, boilerplate evocation of “Bush-Cheney did it” sounds strained. The blatant divisive appeal to unions, young people, and “black folks” is now unapologetic. Them versus Us is the new theme. Gone is the pretense of inclusivity. Even the fainting now seems rigged rather than spontaneous, the faux cadences forced and more Rev. Wrightish rather than inspired. The eyes of the crowd roll, and have lost their glazed zombie look of 2008. It all reminds me of the failed comeback tour of the proverbial fading rock star, the desperate promos for the sinking supposed blockbuster Hollywood movie, or perhaps something akin to Jerry Ford’s WIN buttons or the Carter desk thump.

So Unfair

The recent interviews with and analyses of the Obama administration — as it descends to a near 40% approval rating — by sympathetic liberal journalists reveal one common theme: a sort of petulance that the actual job of an administration proved so much more of a downer than the giddiness of the 2008 campaign. So unfair, so terribly unjust.

Apparently, Team Obama’s disappointment is largely found in others (as is “they” and “them”), rather than this bunch’s own hubris and its invitation to nemesis. There seems to be absolutely no realization about three central truths to the implosion of this administration. And until they achieve self-reflection, they will have no comeback analogous to a Bill Clinton in 1995:

Flukes as Mandates

Obamites still seem to think their arrival signaled a genuine American move to the left, or at least Obama’s singular ability to take the country to the left, rather than a confluence of once in a century events that allowed the northern liberal Obama to do what Dukakis, Kerry, McGovern, and Mondale had not (e.g., the novelty of the first serious African-American candidacy, the anger over the Iraq war, the lackluster McCain campaign that seemed to want to lose nobly rather than win messily, the first orphaned election without incumbents since 1952, the September 15, 2008, panic and meltdown, and the stealth candidacy of Obama running as a centrist moderate).

There was no need right off the bat, in the midst of a recession, to nationalize healthcare, push cap and trade through the House, digest the student loan program, sell cash for clunkers, or celebrate mega-deficit stimulus borrowing. Unemployment was the key and was ignored, although a great deal of research had shown that targeted tax incentives and reassuring talk about a favorable business climate can accelerate recovery.

All this nonsense was a complete misreading of the election. The result is that in a few weeks Obama will destroy the careers of 50-70 House members and 8-11 senators who followed the tune of our mellifluous pied piper into the abyss. I suggest that he doesn’t care all that much (his post-office future is brighter than theirs) — both because of narcissist tendencies and a sober reflection that a Republican Congress in 2011-12 can be blamed for cutting the “needy” while Obama can take credit for the upturn that will surely follow once business grasps his socialist agenda is stalled.

Private Enterprise Is Run by Humans

This administration is absolutely clueless about the psychological element central to economic recovery. (Yes, yes, I know, some of you think it was a predetermined effort to wreck capitalism. I wrote about that for National Review for tomorrow.) Obama & Co. seem to think businesses and financial bodies are not human, and so don’t mind serial slurs (from the damnation of the Chamber of Commerce [real smart in a recession] to quips like “I do think at a certain point you have made enough money” as the first lady hits Costa del Sol). Yes, businesses are run by real people with feelings and sensory perception. They “get” the demonization of those who make over $250,000, the loose talk of VAT taxes, caps off income subject to payroll taxes, healthcare surcharge taxes, a return to the Clinton tax rates only on top incomes, higher capital gains taxes and new inheritances taxes.

Add all that to new healthcare and financial regulations, and the message is clear the American private sector is suspect rather than industrious and critical to our nation’s economic life. After Obama’s slurs against Fox, the Republican leadership, insurers, Wall Street, doctors, police, the people of Arizona, or opponents of the Ground Zero mosque, fairly or not, a lot of people conclude that he does not like them or what they do or what they represent. So trillions of dollars in capital are waiting on the sidelines until November and proof that the Obama agenda is stalled. Even the SEIU or Nancy Pelosi cannot change that fact.

Trumping Nixon

Then there is the constant petulance. The administration has proven itself vintage Nixonian in its enemy lists without Nixon’s foreign policy expertise. Collate all the dark forces like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Justice Roberts, Fox News, John Boehner, the Tea Party, the Chamber of Commerce, and Karl Rove. Then add those nefarious actors with Journolist, Robert Gibbs’s venomous buffoonery, and the president’s own attacks (e.g. “stupidly” acting police, racist Arizonans that deport kids on their way to ice cream, xenophobic Manhattanites) and we are right back to 1972-3, albeit with the hypocritical veneer of hope and change, no more red/blue state, and across the aisle brotherhood. Hypocrisy is a force multiplier to paranoia.

An Unimaginable Reckoning?

We are looking at a perfect storm in November. In theory, well less than 180 seats are absolutely safe. Millions of independents and conservative Democrats will vote by a straight pocketbook barometer: Obama turned a recession into a near depression in a way Reagan and Clinton did not. Millions of other naïve Republicans and moderates feel embarrassed that they voted for a European socialist and won’t ratify his agenda in November. A hard-core leftist base is petulant that Obama copied Bush’s anti-terrorism protocols and broke a lot of promises in the process; they will vote only if they happen to be driving by the polls on a Tuesday afternoon.

A few wealthy liberals are starting to do some basic arithmetic and, lo and behold, are discovering that they are on the wrong side of the new economic Mason-Dixon line of $250,000 and are suddenly counter-revolutionaries, and thus scheduled for a $20-40 thousand “contribution” in new income, capital gains, healthcare, and state income taxes to achieve “redistributive change.” (That monstrous Obama ’08 sign on the lawn, much less the fading Obama/Biden bumper sticker, does not count with the IRS.) They remind me of ‘reformers’ who thought throwing out Louis XVI would put them at the forefront of a reasoned revolution and now find themselves on the way to the guillotine, the sympathetic “rich” that Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety still didn’t like.

Even the base, unions, and minorities won’t all show up without Obama, their godhead, on the ballot. The final irony? The more Obama goes out on the campaign trail, slurs the Chamber or the new enemy of the week, and blatantly appeals to bloc voting from particular minority groups, the more unsympathetic to voters he becomes. (I don’t recall George W. Bush going after Keith Olbermann, Bob Shrum,, or the AFL-CIO).

Please Don’t Forget Chris Gibson, in NY’s 20th.

As I wrote on previous occasions, a rare American — war hero, author, West Point instructor, retired colonel, conservative— Chris Gibson is running neck and neck in New York’s 20th Congressional District. I don’t get involved in political races per se; but I met Chris during his one-year stay at Stanford, and found him a rare Renaissance figure — yet another of these idealistic first-time candidates without a political resume who are entering the fray to save this country. I think pundits have not appreciated the fact that this is not quite a red/blue, Republican versus Democratic race, but a historic election in which many of the Republican candidates are first-time politicians, beholden to no one, and not part of the Republican establishment. Their ascendancy should make things very interesting. Chris is a rare candidate, whose integrity is as unquestioned as his talents are boundless. It was an honor to be called his friend. He is an investment in our collective future.

Stanford Daily

I never heard back from the Stanford Daily in my challenge to either apologize or demonstrate that the American university has clear and logical criteria for racial and ethnic preferences in hiring and admission and, furthermore, has the ability to determine exactly who, and on what grounds, qualifies for membership in such targeted rubrics. The letters, however, to the Stanford Daily, were entertaining to the say the least.

Tour—Sold Out

The Tyrrhenian Sea tour for some reason sold out (65 with staff) this year quite early. Perhaps it was the itinerary of Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, the Italian Coast, or this year’s focus on military history lectures on everything from Napoleon to Invasions of Sicily from the Athenians’ to George Patton’s. If anyone is still interested, check the website ( and contact Al Philipp, who is desperately trying to purchase 5 more slots on the cruise and hotel if possible.

©2010 Victor Davis Hanson

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